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French biz lobbies for rebate fix

Increased offsets needed to compete with Belgium

France’s powerful movie industry lobbies have sounded a collective call to arms for the government to ante up Gallic pic tax rebates for French productions.

Setting the wheels of reform in motion Monday, four trade assocations — powerful general industry lobbies Blic and Bloc, producers union Upf, plus director-producers’ lobby Arp — issued a joint press release offering support to culture minister Frederic Mitterrand’s May 15 observations at Cannes that French film tax rebates need rethinking.

The initiative kickstarts a potential major French film fiscal overhaul to stem runaway productions, particularly to neighboring Belgium.

As the U.S. increasingly looks to Europe to co-finance pics, rebate reforms could give French companies, already Europe’s co-production kings, even more international clout. Reforms will not affect France’s successful tax rebate for international productions.

Attractive rebates would “curb new and drastic de-localization of shoots and flight of creative and technical talent,” the lobbies argued.

Local film tax rebates are capped at €1 million ($1.4 million), applicable usually to 20% of below-the-line spending, and often are incompatible with international co-productions; Belgium’s tax shelter isn’t capped, and takes into account up to 45% of expenditure, a large lure for higher-end $14.3 million-plus French productions.

But even mid-budget $6 million-$8.5 million Gallic productions, which could never access $1.4 million in rebates, are now shooting abroad, said Patrick Lamassoure, managing director Film France.

“That suggests the productions find more money through rebates and regional support in other countries,” he added.

“French film professionals are demonstrating that they’re all united to support this measure. That’s a key argument,” Thierry de Segonzac, prexy of France’s Ficam technicians’ assn., told Variety.

Given the French film industry’s collective call for action, a likely scenario will now see France’s CNC film board creating a work group to thrash out detailed reform. These will then be negotiated between the CNC and France’s culture and finance ministries.

Ficam, Film France and other industry entities will approach French MPs starting in June ahead of 2012 budget votes, Segonzac said.